State Delhi (Administration) sV.
Laxman Kumar & Ors  INSC 204 (23 September 1985)
MISRA RANGNATH MISRA RANGNATH SEN, AMARENDRA
CITATION: 1986 AIR 250 1985 SCR Supl. (2) 898
1985 SCC (4) 476 1985 SCALE (2)701
R 1988 SC1785 (15)
A. Murder by burning - No eye witness to
testify the act of setting fire to the deceased or to the defence version of
deceased saree catching fire accidently, except the oral testimony of witnesses
who ran to the spot soon after hearing the cries for help by the deceased, the
three statements implicating the accused as the perpetrators of the crime made
by the deceased before admission in the hospital, the conduct of the accused
when the deceased clothes were aflame, the alleged torture of the deceased for
sometime preceding the occurrence over demands for cash and goods in kind and
other circumstances on record - Circumstantial evidence corroborated by other
evidence - Appreciation of evidence taking judicial notice of facts Sections 3,
11, 55 and 114 of the Evidence Act, Indian Penal Code section 302.
B. Dying declarations, relevance of - They
can be used as corroborative evidence and need not be totally rejected -
Evidence Act section 32 (1).
C. Appeal against acquittal and appeal
against conviction, scope of and the powers of the Supreme Court to intervene
under Article 136 of the Constitution.
D. Sentence - Imposition of proper punishment
and passing a sentence while interfering in an appeal against acquittal by the
Supreme Court - Time lag may be one of the factors to be considered.
Shakuntala and Srinivas have four sons
Subhash, Laxman, Vinod and Ram Avtar and two daughters. They ordinarily live at
Barot about 50 miles from Delhi alongwith their two daughters. Subhash and his
wife Madhu (DW5), are school teachers at Delhi and have two minor children.
Sometime in May or June, 1979 these brothers came to live in ground floor flat
No. 9B of the Janata flats in Ashok Vihar area.
They purchased the First Floor Flat No. 9D
previously occupied by Deven Dass and his wife Ishwari 899 Devi (PW4) in 1980
and on their request Deven Dass moved over to Flat No. 28D in the same area in
September October'80. On February 16, 1980 Laxman Kumar was married to Sudha,
the deceased and they lived in one of the rooms in flat No. 9B. Sudha was in
the family way and was expecting to deliver a child towards the end of the
first week of December, 1980.
A little after 9 p.m. on December 1, 1980, on
hearing a lady's voice crying "Bachao Bachao" (Save O Save) from flat
No. 9B, the neighbours like Jaspal Singh (PW1) Satish Chopra (PW2) and Ishwari
Devi (PW4) ran to the flat and Tarsem Jain (PW5) who was near about also came
there. PW1 saw Laxman standing at the entrance door and attempting to close it
while Subhash was standing with his hand on the latch of the door which opened
to the courtyard. PW1 and others who had collected there forced their way
inside and saw Sudha in a standing position but aflame. They attempted to
extinguish the fire first by pulling out the saree from the body of the lady,
put a gunny bag lying nearby on the burning body and later wrapped her up with
a blanket brought by PW 2 Satish Chopra. When, after extinguishing the fire,
they brought Sudha to the room where Shakuntala mother-in-law was standing,
Sudha made a statement to the effect that it was her mother-in-law who had set
her fire after pouring kerosene on her body. Soon a taxi was brought and the
respondents accused took Sudha for treatment to the Hindu Rao Hospital. While
being shifted to the taxi, Sudha made another statement to the same effect as
to the authorship of the crime. Again, when on the way they picked up Gayatri,
one of the sisters of Sudha and PW3 and her husband, she repeated the
allegation against her mother-in-law on seeing her sister PW3 in the taxi. At
the suggestion of PW3 Sudha was taken to St. Stephen's hospital where Sudha was
being looked after for her pre-maternity care. The witnesses on their own,
believing that Sudha was being taken to Hindu Rao Hospital, went there and
waited for some time but when they found that Sudha was not being brought
there, they returned to their residences. However, soon after the distress cry
for help, a telephone message to the police Control Room with telephone No.
100, that a lady had been set on fire was conveyed and on this First
Information having been duly monitored to the mobile police van around the area
in question, PW 17 was deputed to look into the matter.
Learning that Sudha was shifted to the
hospital, PW 17 reached the hospital straightway for investigation. At the
hospital a written declaration is said to have been made which was proved and
relied on by the defence. Sudha died in the early hours of December 2, 1980.
900 After due investigation the respondents
were prosecuted on a charge of murder. There is no eye witness to testify to
the act of setting fire to Sudha which is the prosecution case, or to the
factum that of Sudha's saree catching fire accidentally as alleged by the
defence. At the trial, the prosecution has sought to rely upon the oral
testimony of witnesses who ran to the spot soon after he ring the cries of
deceased, the three statements made by her to the various witnesses implicating
the accused persons as the perpetrators of the crime, the conduct of the
accused persons as deposed to by the witnesses when the deceased clothes were
aflame, the alleged torture of the deceased for some time preceding the
occurrence over demand for cash and goods in kind, and other circumstances
available on record and examined as many as 21 witnesses.
According to the defence version the
deceased, while trying to lit the kerosine stove for heating up milk for one of
the children of Subhash who was feeling hungry had her saree lit up by the
stove fire which led to the incident;
that Laxman her husband was away as he had
accompanied the deceased sister up to the bus stand, that Subhash and
Shakuntala did take reasonable care to put out the fire. To prove this defence
they examined PW1, the doctor at the hospital, DW2 (same as PW 18) Record
Keeper of the hospital, DW 3 a neighbour, DW4 the taxi driver and DW5 wife of
Subhash and also relied on certain documents.
The trial Judge accepted the prosecution
version, namely; (i) the authorship of the crime; (ii) the relationship of the
deceased with Laxman and members of his family having become strained on
account of demands for more dowry and therefore their decision to do away with
her before the child was born; and (iii) the factum of failure on the part of
the accused persons to take appropriate steps to save the deceased while the
fire was put out by the neighbours PWs 1, 2, 4 and 5. Accepting the charges and
convicting the respondents of murder, he was of the view that the appropriate
punishment to be meted was death. He accordingly sentenced all the respondents
to death and as required by law, referred the matter to the High Court of Delhi
for confirmation of the death sentence. The respondents challenged their
conviction by preferring an appeal.
The reference and the appeal were taken up
together for hearing by the High Court. The High Court differed from the trial
Judge on almost every aspect of the testimony of the prosecution witnesses,
excepting the presence of PWs 1, 2, & 5 and their role 901 in extinguishing
the fire, accepted the defence version, and discharged the reference and
allowed the appeal. The respondents were, therefore, acquitted. Hence the State
appeal No. 93 of 1984 and the Indian Federation of Woman Lawyers appeal No. 94
Giving the benefit of doubt to the accused
Subhash and when maintaining the conviction of Shakuntala & Laxman for the
offence of murder under section 302 I.P.C. recorded by the Sessions Judge,
allowing the appeal in part by altering the sentence of death into one of life
imprisonment, the Court, ^
HELD: 1.1 The scope of an appeal against
acquittal and the scope of the Supreme Court's jurisdiction to interfere in
Such a matter are well settled. There is not difference between an appeal
against conviction and an appeal against acquittal except that when dealing
with an appeal against acquittal the Court keeps in view the position that the
presumption of innocence in favour of the accused has been fortified by
acquittal and if the view adopted by the High Court in a reasonable one and the
conclusion reached by it had its grounds well set on the materials on record.
[929 A- D]
1.2 Once evidence has been read and the
Supreme Court has proceeded to review the entire material, there is indeed not
limitation in law in exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 136 of the
Constitution for the matter of making a just decision. [929 D-E] 1.3 In the
instant case, on the evidence it is clear:
(i) that the relationship of the deceased
with the members of the husbands' family had become strained and the had been
subjected to physical as well as mental torture for some time before the
incident; The physical torture was the outcome of indifference to her health
and the mental torture was on account of demand of dowry; (ii) that the deceased
had not lighted the kerosene stove that evening and her wearing apparel had not
caught fire accidently but kerosene had been sprinkled on her clothes and she
had been brought into the open space where fire was lit to her clothes; (iii)
that he deceased died not as an outcome of an accidental fire but on account of
a designed move on the part of the members of the family of the accused persons
to put an end to her life; and (iv) that the husband and mother-in-law or the
deceased are responsible for the killing of the deceased by setting her on fire
and therefore committed the Offence of murder and are liable to be convicted
for the offence punishable under section 302 I.P.C., while the brother-in- law
Subhash is 902 entitled to the benefit of doubt, his case being on the border
line. [924 A, H, 925 A, 928 A-B, G-H, 929 A-B, 930 B- D] Barendra Kumar Ghosh
v. The King Emperor, 52 I.A. 40 referred to.
2.1 The cause of any person being found
aflame with fire could always be either of the three alternatives, namely, (a)
suicide/self immolation; (b) accidental fire;
and (c) "being put on fire by
someone". In the instant case:
(i) the deceased having been burnt is not in
dispute; (ii) the plea of suicide has not been advanced either by the
prosecution or by the defence. Suicide as the reason of death has rightly not
been pressed into service in as much the deceased, in spite of the fact that
she had been suffering physically without any assistance at the advanced stage
of her pregnancy, was getting prepared to play the role of mother; (iii) the
defence plea of accidental fire has to be rejected by taking judicial notice of
the facts (a) the kerosene stove was in the open space (b) there was a gas
stove in the kitchen and the same was in order but there was no evidence why
the gas stove was not used (c) around 9 p.m. of December it would be unbearably
cold outside the house in Delhi. To work the kerosene stove would take sometime
and if milk for the crying child was immediately necessary, the kerosene stove
would not be the proper heating medium. On the other hand, the gas stove would
have served the purpose better. Not much of gas was likely to be consumed for
heating the milk, nor even for heating up the food for brother-in-law Subhash;
(d) the deceased did not have any warm clothings on her person and had only a
nylon saree. Being pregnant lady at an advanced stage she was expected to keep
properly robed to avert getting ill from exposure to cold, and therefore, it is
not likely that she would have ventured going out to operate the kerosene
(e) the deceased being in an advance stage of
pregnancy would have found it difficult to squat on the floor itself;
and (f) it would be natural human conduct for
the deceased to have gone to the gas stove in preference to the kerosene stove.
Once the explanation and the defence story of accidental fire has been
discarded and there being no plea of suicide, the prosecution story that fire
was set to the saree of the deceased is the only other way in which she must
have been burnt. [909 B,E-F, 912 E,G-H, 913 A-D]
3. A dying declaration envoys almost a
sacrosanct status as a piece of evidence as it comes from mouth of a person who
is about to die and at that stage of life he is not likely to make a 903 false
statement. Ordinarily a document as valuable as a dying declaration is supposed
to be fool proof and is to incorporate the particulars which it is supposed to
Conviction cannot be based purely on oral
dying declarations, despite earlier cases of conviction solely based thereon.
However, oral dying declarations cannot be totally rejected and the name can be
used as corroborative material. In the instant case, the alleged written dying
declarations cannot be accepted because the explanation of PW 17, the police
officer who recorded the dying declaration himself contrary to the Delhi Police
rules as to why he was not looking for a Magistrate or a near relation but
getting lt endorsed by the doctor as "attested the recorded statement and
without indicating the time of the statement and without the signature of the
deceased who was an educated person is unconvincing and not reliable: Equally
no reliance can be made on the oral statements made by the deceased until
corroborated with other evidence. [913 F-G, 914 A,D,G-H, 915 G-H, 916 A-B]
Kushal Rao v. State of Bombay, A.I.R. 1958 S.C. 22;
Dalip Singh & Ors. v. State of Punjab
A.I.R. 1979 S.C. 1173;
Pedda Narayna & Ors. v. State of Andhra
Pradesh,  4 S.C.C. 153; Sat Paul v. Delhi administration 11976] 1 S.C.R.
727 referred to.
4. In a suitable case of bride burning, death
sentence may not be improper. However, in the instant case the Trial Judge had
thought it proper to impose the punishment of death but the High Court
acquitted all the accused. In the fact situation following the acquittal in the
hands of-the High Court and the time lag of two years since the respondents
were acquitted must be taken into consideration while imposing a proper
punishment. In the instant case the Court awarded sentence of imprisonment for
life for the accused. [931 A-C] OBSERVATION (It is the obligation of every
Court to find out the truth and act according to law once the truth is
In that search for truth obviously the Court
has to function within the bounds set by law and act on the evidence placed
before it. What happens outside the Court room when the Court is busy in its
process of adjudication is indeed irrelevant and unless a proper cushion is
provided to keep the proceedings within the court room dissociated from the
heat generated outside the court room either through the news media or through
flutter in the public mind, the cause of justice is bound to suffer. Mankind
has shifted from the 904 state of nature towards a civilized society and it is
no longer the physical power of a litigating individual or the might of the
ruler nor even the opinion of the majority that takes away the liberty of a
citizen by convicting him and making him suffer a sentence of imprisonment.
Award of punishment following conviction at a trial in a system wedded to rule
of law is the outcome of cool deliberation in the court room after adequate
hearing to afforded to the parties, accusations are brought against the
accused, the prosecutor is given an opportunity of supporting the charge and the
accused is equally given an opportunity of meeting the accusations by
establishing his innocence. It is the outcome of cool deliberations and the
screening of the martial by the informed mint of the Judge that leads to
determination of the lis. If the cushion is lost ant the Court room is allowed
to vibrate with the heat generated outside it, the adjudicatory process suffers
and the search for truth is stifled.)
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 93 and 94 of 1984.
From the Judgment and Order dated 3.11.1983
of the Delhi High Court in Cr1. Appeal No. 131 of 1982 and Murder Reference No.
1 of 1983.
M.S. Gujral, Girish Chandra, R.N. Poddar and
Mansoor Ali for the Appellant in Crl. A. No. 93 of 1984.
R.K. Garg, Mrs. Urmila Sirur, M.V. Katarke,
Ms. Rani Jethmalani, Mrs. Urmila Kapoor and Mrs. C.M. Chopra for the Appellants
in Crl. A. No. 94 of 1984.
Rajendra Singh, M.N. Shroff and Dilbagrai
Sheti for the Respondents in both the appeals.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
RANGANATH MISRA, J. These two appeals are by special leave. The Delhi
Administration has preferred Criminal Appeal No. 93/84 and the Indian
Federation of Women Lawyers and others have preferred the other Criminal
Appeal. Both are directed against the same judgment of the Delhi High Court
acquitting the respondents of a charge of murder of one Sudha by setting fire
to her. The Trial court had accepted the prosecution case and considering it to
be one of the atrocious dowry deaths, had sentenced each of the respondents to
death. The reference made by the trial Judge was discharged by the High Court
and the appeal preferred by the respondents was allowed.
905 The three respondents are Shakuntala, the
mother and two of her sons, Subhash Chandra and Laxman Kumar.
Shankuntala is the wife of one Sriniwas. They
have four sons Subhash, Laxman, Vinod and Ram Avtar, and two daughters. The
parents ordinarily Live at Barot about 50 miles away from Delhi along with the
two daughters. Subhash and his wife Madhu, PW.5, are school teachers at Delhi.
They have two minor children. Laxman Kumar was married to Sudha over whose
death the present case has arisen. Vinod and Ram Avtar were living with the two
elder brothers at Delhi. Some time in May or June 1979 these brothers came to live
in Flat No. 9-B of the Janata Flats in Ashok Vihar area. This flat is in the
ground floor. Flat No.9-D which is the corresponding first floor flat was
previously in occupation of tenant - Deven Dass - whose wife Ishwari Devi has
been examined as PW.4.
Some time in 1980, this flat was purchased by
the family of the accused persons and on their request the tenant shifted to
Flat No. 28-D in the same area about two months before the incident.
On February 16, 1980, Laxman Kumar was
married to Sudha. After the marriage Subhash and members of his family (DW.5
and the two children) started living in one of the rooms in the ground floor
while Laxman and Sudha lived in the other in the same flat. The upper rooms
were occupied by the two other brothers, Vinod and Ram Avtar. As it appears,
Shakuntala, the mother, was ordinarily staying with her husband at Barot but
now and then came to Delhi and lived the sons.
Sudha's two sisters, Gayatri, P.W.3 and
Snehlata, P.W. 6, were married to Pawan Kumar Goel and Damodar Dass Gupta,
respectively. Pawan Kumar was living in Premnagar area while Damodar Dass lived
in Hari Nagar, both parts of Delhi. Sudha was in the family way and was
expecting to deliver a child towards the end of the first week of December
In Flat No. 9-B there was a small kitchen
where a gas operated stove along with a cylinder was kept. A small portion of
the open space in the courtyard by the side of the kitchen had been covered
with asbestos sheets. There also cooking used to be done with the held of a
kerosene stove as the kitchen was small. Certain other household materials,
including smock of kerosene in tins were kept there.
A little after 9 P.M. On December 1, 1980, a
shout was heard from Flat No. 9-B. lt was a lady's voice crying 'Bachao Bachao'
(save O save). On hearing the cry neighbours like Jaspal 906 Singh, P.W. 1,
Satish Chopra, P.W.2 Ishwari Devi, P.W. 4 ran to the flat and P.W. 5 Tarsem
Jain who was near about also came there. P.W. 1 saw Laxman standing at the
entrance door and was attempting to close it while Subhash was standing with
his hand on the latch of the door which opened to the courtyard. He and others
who had collected forced their way inside and saw Sudha in a standing position
but aflame. The neighbours attempted to extinguish the fire first by pulling
out the saree from the body of the lady, put a gunny bag lying nearby on the
burning body and when Satish Chopra brought a blanket, the same was wrapped
around her body.
After extinguishing the fire they brought
Sudha to the room where Shakuntala was standing. According to the prosecution
case, Sudha, on seeing the mother-in-law, made a statement to the effect that
it was she who had set her on fire after pouring kerosene on her body. Soon a
taxi was brought and the three members of the family (respondents here) took
Sudha for treatment to the hospital. On the way they picked up P.W.3 and her
husband. Initially the accused persons had decided to take Sudha to Hindu Rao
Hospital but on P.W. 3 suggesting that Sudha may be taken to St. Stephen's
Hospital where she was being looked after for her pre-maternity care, she was
ultimately taken there.
Sudha appears to have reached the hospital
around 9.45 P.M. The witnesses on their own believing that Sudha was being
taken to Hindu Rao Hospital, went there and waited for some time but when they
found that the lady was not being brought there, they returned to their
residences. Soon after he cry for help had been heard, a telephone message had
been conveyed to the Police control room having Telephone No. 100 that a lady
had been set on fire and this information had been duly monitored to the mobile
police van around the area in question. P.W. 17 was deputed to look into the
matter. By the time he reached the spot, Sudha had already been shifted to the
hospital. Therefore, P.W. 17 went straight to the hospital from there.
It is further case of the prosecution that
Sudha made statements soon after the witnesses gathered near the flat itself
pointing to the mother-in-law as the killer She again made statement while she
was being shifted to the taxi. When P.W.3 and her husband came into the taxi on
the way to the Hospital, she is alleged to have repeated the statement about
the incident. At the hospital a written declaration is said to have been made
on which the prosecution does not rely but which the defence has proved.
Sudha died in the early hours of December 2,
After due investigation the respondents were
prosecuted on a charge of 907 murder. There is no eye witness to testify to the
act of setting fire to Sudha which is the prosecution case, or to the fact of
Sudha's saree catching fire accidentally as alleged by the defence. Prosecution
has sought to rely upon the oral testimony of witnesses who ran to the spot
soon after hearing the cries of Sudha, the statements made by Sudha to the
various witnesses implicating the accused persons as the perpetrators of the
crime, the conduct of the accused persons as deposed to by the witnesses when
Sudha's clothes were aflame, the alleged torture of Sudha for some time
preceding the occurrence over demands for cash and goods in kind, and other
circumstances available on record.
At the trial the prosecution examined 21
witnesses of whom P.Ws. 1, 2, 4 and 5 are neighbours who spoke about the incident
from the stage they saw after being attracted by the cries raised by Sudha.
P.Ws. 3 and 6 are the sisters of Sudha. P.W. 7 is her mother and PW 8 is the
elder brother of Sudha and both of them lived in Calcutta. These four witnesses
have been examined to speak about the relationship that existed between Sudha
on the one side and the husband and other members of his family on the other.
PW.9 is the doctor who conducted the post-mortem examination. PWs. 10, 11 and
14 are three constables who had a role to play in the process of investigation.
PW. 12 was the Duty Officer at Ashok Vihar Police Station at the relevant time.
He was called to prove the papers where the information from the hospital about
Sudha's death had been recorded. PW. 13 is the receptionist at St. Stephen's
Hospital who had passed on the message of Sudha's death to the duty Officer.
PW. 15 had received the message given at 9.15 P.M. On December 1, 1980, about a
lady being burnt by fire. PW. 16 is a Draughtsman attached to the Crime Branch
of the Delhi Police who had measured the different places in and around the
flat where the occurrence took place. PW. 17 is the Investigating Officer. PW.
18 is a doctor who had examined PW. 1 for burn injuries on his person. PW 19
(wrongly shown in the paper- book as PW 18) was attached to the St. Stephen's
Hospital as a Record Keeper and he produced certain documents. PW. 20 (wrongly
shown as PW.19) was also a Duty Officer attached to the Ashok Vihar Police
Station who on receiving the telephone message in the night of December 1,
1980, had monitored it to the mobile van. PW 21 (wrongly shown as PW.
20) was a formal witness from the Police
According to the defence version, Sudha while
trying to lit the kerosene stove for heating up milk for one of the children of
Subhash who was feeling hungry had her saree lit up by the stove 908 fire which
led to the incident. Laxman was away as he had accompanied Sudha's sister up to
the bus stand. Subhash and Shakuntala took reasonable care to put off the fire.
To prove this defence, they have examined five witnesses being DW.1, the doctor
at the hospital, DW.2 (same person as PW.18), Record Keeper of the Hospital,
DW.3, a neighbour, DW. 4, the driver of the taxi and DW.5, the wife of Subhash.
They have also relied upon certain documents.
The learned trial Judge accepted the
prosecution version. He believed that Sudha was about to deliver a child on
account of the advanced stage of pregnancy had become somewhat immobile.
Kerosene had been sprinkled on her body with a view to killing her and fire was
set to her clothes at the time alleged. The relationship of Sudha with Laxman
and members of his family had become strained on account of demands for more
dowry and the accused had decided to do away with her before the child was
born. He accepted the oral evidence on the side of the prosecution as to
authorship of the crime. He also accepted the prosecution allegation that the
accused person that not taken appropriate steps and it is the neighbours who
put out the fire. Accepting the charge and convicting the respondents of
murder, he was of the view that the appropriate punishment to be meted was
death. He accordingly sentenced all the respondents to death and as required by
law, referred the matter to the High Court of Delhi for confirmation of the
death sentence. The respondents challenged their conviction by preferring an
appeal. The reference and the appeal were taken up together for hearing by the
High Court and the High Court discharged the reference and allowed the appeal.
The respondents thus came to be acquitted.
The High Court differed from the trial Judge
on almost every aspect excepting the presence of PWs.1, 2 and 5 had their role
in extinguishing the fire. This is what the High Court stated :
"We have no hesitation in agreeing with
Mr. Teja Singh that PWs. 1, 2 and 5 had rushed to the rescue of the deceased on
hearing her cries of 'Bachao Bachao'. They had actively helped in extinguishing
the fire of the deceased, brought her out, and also probably one of them
brought a taxi in which Sudha was taken to the hospital. PW.
2 states that he had gone to the house of
Sardar Ajit Singh and from there telephone the police control room regarding
the occurrence. We have no reason to doubt the correctness of the above
statement of PW.2" 909 The High Court made clean division of its judgment
into separate heads like : (1) Prosecution version of the occurrence; (2)
Motive; (3) Dying declarations; (4) Medical evidence; (5) Conduct of the
accused; (6) Investigation; and (7) Conclusion. While dealing with the
prosecution version of the occurrence, the High Court extracted substantial
portions of the statements given under section 313, Cr. P.C.
by each of the accused persons.
That Sudha was burnt at the relevant time has
never been in dispute. There could be three alternatives for her being burnt
(1) suicide; (2) accidental fire; and (3) being put on fire. The plea of
suicide has not been advanced either by the prosecution or by the defence. It
is true that Sudha had been suffering physically as found by the learned trial
Judge and accepted by the High Court on account of the fact that there was no
one to assist her in the work at home and the entire load came up on her. Yet,
she had withstood all that and within a week or so she was about to be relieved
of the heavy burden she carried on delivery of the child. Nature, it is said,
processes the instincts of the mother to be in such a way that by the time she
is about to deliver The child, a total transformation comes about. The record
does not have any indication that Sudha ever thought of putting an end to her
life. On the other hand, we are led to hold that like every expectant mother
she was looking forward to see the fruit of the long waiting and the suffering she
had undergone for begetting the child. There is material that she was preparing
warm clothings for the baby to arrive and getting prepared to play the role of
mother. Suicide as the reason of death has, therefore, rightly not been pressed
into service leaving the two other alternatives of accidental fire as pleaded
by the defence and the intentional killing by burning her as pleaded by the
prosecution, for consideration.
Laxman Kumar in his statement under 8. 313
Cr. P.C. had suggested that Jaspal Singh, PW. 1 and Satish Chopra, PW. 2 had
formed a group against him and his brothers. Subhash has, however, not stated
in that strain. DW. 5 spoke about dispute with Jaspal over unauthorised
construction and blockage of the water passage. PW. 1 Jaspal Singh has not been
cross examined in this regard excepting a bare suggestion at one place. Jaspal
Singh, as his evidence shows, is on a job which keeps him mostly out of Delhi
and he did not appear to be involved in any politics of the locality. The
animosity of the principal prosecution witnesses which the accused persons
wanted to suggest has, therefore, not been established in this case.
910 We have already indicated that both the
trial Judge as also the High Court have accepted the fact that PWs. 1, 2 and 5
rushed to the spot on hearing Sudha's cry for help. If relationship between
these witnesses on one side and members of the family of the accused on the
other had been strained as alleged, the spontaneous response which came from
these witnesses would not have been found. We cannot lose sight of the fact
that one of the curses of modern living, particularly in highly urbanised areas
is to have a life cut off from the community so as even not to know the
neighbours. Indifference to what happens around is the way of life. That being
the ordinary behaviour of persons living in the city, if added to it there was
animosity, these witnesses would certainly not have behaved in the manner they
have. We, therefore, are not impressed by the doubts expressed by the High Court
about the veracity of their evidence. these witnesses not only rushed to the
spot but took a leading part in putting out the fire from Sudha's person and
ensured her despatch for medical assistance at the shortest interval. As
expected of a good neighbour, information was given to the police, a blanket
was made available, a taxi was called and human sympathy and assistance to the
extent possible was extended. If the accusation of animosity and ill-feeling is
not accepted, these witnesses must be taken to be not only competent being
present at the spot, but also acceptable in respect of what they say as being
truthful witnesses. The trial Judge had appreciated their evidence that way and
we see no justification for the High Court to have differed from that.
It is pertinent to notice that PW.1 suffered
a burn injury and this is supported by medical evidence. Even the High Court
accepted the position that this injury was suffered when PW 1 was attempting to
put out the fire on Sudha's person.
PW. 4 is a lady who had been living in the
upper floor Flat No. 9-D until about October 1980. Sudha must have had occasion
to know her very intimately because they lived together for about eight months.
Sudha came from an urban background being a resident of Calcutta. In her new
setting she must have looked for some company. DW.5, the only other lady in the
family, worked in a School and possibly her relationship with Sudha was not
very cordial though they lived together. In these circumstances it is only
natural that Sudha would have turned to PW. 4 Ishwari Devi, for being in
friendly terms. The evidence of PW.4 shows that they were quite close to each
other and Sudha-used to open her mind to her every now and then. It is her
evidence that even after she had shifted to her new apartment, they used to
meet almost every- 911 day. A suggestion was made that PW. 4 had developed
animosity against the accused persons as she and her husband had been forced to
vacate the tenanted premises of Flat No.
9-D. There is no evidence of any pressure and
consequently no ill-feeling. Knowing the difficulties which the family of the
accused faced on account of want of space, PW. 4 and her husband appear to have
volunteered to shift to the new residence. It was also suggested to this witness
that they were owing Rs. 185 to the grocery shop of the accused Laxman and
since the money was demanded, strained relationship had developed. The witness
has clearly stated that the amount had been paid when Laxman had demanded the
money about a month after the death of Sudha. A current credit of the type from
the grocery shop could be no reason tor developing bad relationship. In the
circumstances we do not see justification to hold that PW. 4 had strained
relationship with the accused persons.
Mr. Rajendra Singh, Senior Advocate for the
respondents with his usual persuasiveness contended that the evidence of these
witnesses should be rejected as has been done by the High Court as each one of
them has improved his version by a lot of embellishment. Statements under s.
161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure regarding the oral lying declarations
made by these witnesses were to the effect that Sudha had stated that it was
the mother-in-law alone who had sprinkled kerosene on the clothes and set fire
to her clothes. But later these witnesses implicated the husband and his elder
brother as being involved in the crime. He also contended that the documents
contemporaneously prepared by the police in normal discharge of their duties
where the cause of fire has been mentioned should be preferred to the oral
evidence particularly when the witnesses have substantially changed their
version and in the backdrop of a written dying declaration attested by the
attending doctor. According to Mr. Singh, there is evidence that there was a
meeting over the issue of Sudha's death held in the morning of the 2nd
December, 1980, in which the local residents participated and the conduct of
the witnesses before and after this meeting sharply differed. He suggested that
the stand adopted by the prosecution in regard to Sudha's death was obviously
evolved at this meeting and one uniform stand taken at an earlier stage was
uniformly changed after the meeting. He pleaded that the oral evidence
regarding Sudha's declarations should be discarded. He also supported the High
Court's finding that the relationship between Sudha and her paternal relations
on one side and Laxman and his relations on the other was very cordial and,
therefore, there could be no 912 motive for killing the mother-to-be. According
to Mr. Singh, once the neighbours knew, on the basis of Sudha's declarations,
that she was set on fire by her husband, his brother and mother, they would not
have permitted Sudha to be taken to the hospital in the taxi in their company
We shall deal with these aspects and his
other submissions in due course and at the relevant places.
The cumulative effect of the evidence of
these four witnesses goes to establish that around 9 P.M. on December 1, 1980,
Sudha had shouted tor help saying that she was on fire. On hearing this cry,
PW. 2 telephoned the Police Control Room from a neighbour's telephone and these
four witnesses rushed to the spot. On approaching the flat they found Laxman at
the main entrance door trying to close it and Subhash at the connecting door
between the room and the open space partially covered with asbestos sheets.
They found Sudha in a standing posture aflame. Shakuntala was noticed standing
in another room. They forced themselves into the room, came up to Sudha, started
removing the saree on her body which had caught fire and finding a gunny bag
lying on the floor, used the same for putting off the fire.
PW. 2 managed to get a blanket in which they
later wrapped Sudha and helped her in being removed to the hospital. There is
clear evidence that on their own they went to the Hindu Rao Hospital thinking
that Sudha would be brought there for treatment.
The evidence also indicates that there was a
gas stove in the kitchen and the same was in order. It is the defence version
that PW. 5 had gone to Barot on November 30, 1980, and respondent Shakuntala
had come the previous day along with Subhash. When Subhash returned to the
house a few minutes before 9 at night, Sudha wanted to warn up the cooked food
for being served to him. At that point of time, the child of Subhash (the other
had gone with the mother) cried for milk, Shakuntala wanted the milk to be
heated up for the child and asked Sudha to give the milk first for the crying
child and then attend to Subhash. It is at that point of time that Sudha wanted
to light the kerosene stove. The kerosene stove was in the open space. Judicial
notice can be taken of the fact that around 9 P.M. of December it would be
unbearably cold outside the house in Delhi. To work the kerosine stove would
take sometime and if milk for the crying child was immediately necessary, the
kerosene stove would not be the proper heating medium. On the other hand, the
gas stove would have served the purpose better. Not much of gas was likely to
be consumed for heating the milk, nor even for heating up the food for Subhash.
We have to take note of the position that Sudha did 913 not have any warm
clothings on her person and as the evidence shows, she had only a nylon saree.
Being a pregnant lady at an advance stage she was expected to keep properly
robed to avert getting ill from exposure to cold. It is, therefore, not likely
that she would have ventured going out to operate the kerosene stove. There is
another feature which also must be taken note of. She being in an advanced
stage of pregnancy would have found it very difficult to squat on the floor for
operating the kerosene stove which was on the floor itself. It is the defence
version that the gunny bag was being used for Sitting purposes for operating the
stove. That is a conjecture accepted by the High Court.
There is no evidence worth the name to
explain why the gas stove was not used. In the absence of an explanation as to
why the gas stove was not being operated for this purpose and in the setting of
events which we have indicated it would be natural human conduct for Sudha to
have gone to the gas stove in preference to the kerosene stove. In these
circumstances we agree with counsel for the appellants that the defence version
explaining the manner in which Sudha's saree caught fire is not acceptable.
Once the explanation advanced by the defence that Sudha's saree caught fire
from the kerosene stove is discarded, on the premises that the same had not
been lighted, the prosecution story that fire was set to her saree is the only
other way in which she must have been burnt.
Before we refer to the oral evidence, it is
appropriate to deal with the dying declarations are both oral and written. The
oral dying declaration are said to have been made first inside the residence;
thereafter when Sudha saw PW. 4 (referring to her as Bobby's mother) and while
coming by the taxi to the hospital after PW. 3 and her husband were picked up.
The High Court has indicated improvements in the evidence with reference to what
had been stated by Sudha on these occasions. A dying declaration enjoys almost
a sacrosanct status as a piece of evidence as it comes from mouth of a person
who is about to die and at that stage of life he is not likely to make a false
statement. The evidence has been placed at length before us during the hearing
by counsel for both the parties. We have also read the evidence again with a
view to forming our own assessment of it. The fact that Sudha implicated
Shakuntala as the person who poured kerosene on her and lit fire to the clothes
is more or less spoken by every witness. Even Mr.
Singh for the respondents in his submission
has agreed that it is so. There is also evidence that she had indicated Laxman
to have actually set fire though at a later stage.
The role assigned to Subhash was not very
914 The other part of the dying declaration
is the written one in the handwriting of PW. 17 and said to have been attested
by DW. 1. This is claimed to have been written at the hospital a couple of hours
after Sudha had been taken there. PW. 17 approached the doctor for requisite
permission and DW.1 after examining the condition of Sudha and after being
satisfied that she was in a fit condition to make a declaration, permitted the
same to be recorded. It has admittedly been written by PW. 17. It has not been
signed by Sudha though she was literate enough. As the evidence shows, there is
a partial impression of a finger tip said to be of Sudha on the document. This
is said to have been put with the assistance of the Investigating Officer who
recorded the statement and DW. 1. When the doctor was available there was no
Justification for the police officer to record the statement. PW.17 was
specifically asked by the prosecution as to why the statement was not got
recorded by a Magistrate or a doctor. He gave the following answer :
"So far as the Magistrate is concerned,
I thought that during the night the Magistrate might not be easily available
and in the mean time the injured might die. So far as doctor is concerned,
generally they refuse to record a statement and in this case he had so refused
to record the statement himself. He had, however, asked me to write the same
under his permission." The doctor, DW. 1 on the other hand stated :
"I did not suggest or impress upon the
police officer that he should called a Magistrate to record the statement or
her own relation to be present at the time of her statement, nor I volunteered
to record the statement myself. It would be incorrect that the police officer had
requested me to record the statement of Sudha and that I had refused to do
so." The explanation of the police officer is, therefore, not accepted by
the doctor. The justification advanced by the police officer for not looking
for a Magistrate does not appear to be easily convincing. At any rate, when the
doctor was available, he should have been requested to record the dying
declaration and PW. 17 should not have taken the job on himself. We are
prepared to prefer the evidence of the doctor to the police officer in this
regard and we, therefore, hold that the police officer did not 915 request the
doctor to record the statement and had volunteered to do so all by himself.
Though DW.1 has stated that he was present
when the statement was made, a lot of argument has been advanced before the
trial Court as also the High Court and even before us about the manner of
attestation made by the doctor. DW.1 has endorsed: Attested the recorded
If the doctor was present and he had heard
the statement being made by Sudha he would have ordinarily endorsed that the
statement had been made to his hearing and has been recorded in his presence.
The endorsement as made is indicative of the position that a statement had been
recorded and the same was being attested by the doctor. As maintained, this
statement has been given in the intensive care unit where apart from the
patient, the doctor and the police officer, none else was present. There is
sumptuous evidence that relations of Sudha were available in the hospital
premises though not within the intensive care unit.
Both the police officer as also the doctor
were asked to indicate the reason for not calling one of those relations to the
place when Sudha's statement was being recorded. In fact, ordinary human conduct
would have required such a relation to be present when the statement was being
made, particularly because it was not known by then to the police officer as to
what statement Sudha would make in regard to the cause of her burning.
We have already pointed out that the document
does not bear the signature of Sudha. Admittedly, burning was to the extent of
70% and there is medical evidence as to which parts of the body had been
affected. There is not any positive evidence that the palms had been affected so
badly that Sudha was not in a position to use any of her fingers.
Nor is there clear evidence that the left
hand thumb had been so affected that a full impression was not available to be
taken. Mr. Singh has argued with emphasis that Sudha must have used both her
hands to extricate herself from her wearing apparel when the same was burning
and thus both the palms and the fingers including the tips must have been
burnt. We do not think in the absence of evidence, such a submission should be
accepted to explain away either a signature or thumb impression in the dying
Added to these features, the time of the
statement has not been indicated in the document. PW. 17 must have known that
the time aspect was very important feature in a document of this type.
Ordinarily, a document as valuable as a dying declaration 916 is supposed to be
fool proof and is to incorporate the particulars which it is supposed to
contain. No justifying reason has been given as to why the time was noted.
The summary of History Sheet, Ext. PW.17/0
indicates that a pethidine injection was given to Sudha at 10 P.M. and the
doctor prescribed repetition of it every 8 hours.
Judicial notice can be taken of the fact that
after pethidine is given the patient would not have normal alertness.
Appropriate care was not taken at the trial stage to cross examine DW.1 with
reference to this aspect. We are inclined to agree with counsel for the
appellants that the certificate of DW. 1 that Sudha was in a fit condition to
make a declaration cannot be given full credit. This Court pointed out in
Khushal Rao v. State of Bombay A.I.R.  S.C. 22, that a dying declaration
stands on the same footing as another piece of evidence and has to be judged in
the light of surrounding circumstances and with reference to the principles
governing the weighing of evidence; that a dying declaration which has been
recorded by a competent magistrate in the proper manner, that is to say, in the
form of questions and answers, and, as far as practicable, in the words of the
maker of the declaration, stands on a much higher footing than a dying
declaration which depends upon oral testimony which may suffer from all the
infirmities of human memory and human character, and that in order to test the
reliability of a dying declaration, the Court has to keep in view, the
circumstances like the opportunity of the dying man for observation, for
example, whether there was sufficient light if the crime was committed at
whether the capacity of the man of remember
the facts stated, had not been impaired at the time he was making the
statement, by circumstances beyond his control; that the statement has been
consistent throughout if he had several opportunities of making a dying
declaration apart from the official record of it; and that the statement had
been made at the earliest opportunity and was not the result of tutoring by
In Dalip Singh & Ors. v. State of Punjab,
A.I.R.  S.C. 1173, this Court has pointed out :
"We may also add that although a dying
declaration recorded by a Police Officer during the course of the investigation
is admissible under section 32 of the Indian Evidence Act in view of the
exception provided in sub-section (2) of section 162 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure, 1973, it is better to leave such 917 dying declarations out of
consideration until and unless the prosecution satisfies the court as to why it
was not recorded by a Magistrate or by a doctor. As observed by this Court in
Munnu Raja v. State of Madhya Pradesh,  2 S.C.R. 764;
A.I.R. 1976 S.C. 2199) the practice of the
Investigating Officer himself recording a dying declaration during the course
of investigation ought not to be encouraged. ........ " We also find that
under the relevant Rules applicable to Delhi area, the investigating officer is
not to scribe the dying declaration. Again, unless the dying declaration is in
question and answer form it is very difficult to know to what extent the
answers have been suggested by questions put. What is necessary is that the
exact statement made by the deceased should be available to the Court.
Considered from these angles, the dying declaration in question is not
acceptable. The High Court obviously lost sight of all these aspects when
reversing the conclusion of the trial Court with regard to the document and
agreeing to act upon it.
Considerable criticism has been advanced on
behalf of the prosecution to the acceptability of this document on account of
these draw backs. When PW. 17 was being examined in Court, the prosecution with
leave of the Court asked him specific questions as if he was being
cross-examined with reference to this document. That shows that grave doubts
were entertained by the prosecution about the bona fides of this dying
declaration. We have bestowed considerable thought on this aspect and we are
led to accept the doubts indicated by the trial Court in regard to the
authenticity of this document. We accordingly decline to attach any importance
While rejecting the written dying
declaration, we would like to point out that we are also not prepared to attach
full credence to the oral dying declarations. There have been instances where
conviction has been based solely upon a dying declaration when it has been
found to be totally acceptable. We are not prepared to attach that type of
importance to the oral dying declarations in this case. We shall refer to these
oral statements in the evidence of witnesses when we come to assess the oral
evidence and we are of the opinion that the oral dying declarations would be
available for use as corroborative material in this case.
918 The High Court utilised three other
documents for finding out how Sudha caught fire. The first of these documents
is the site inspection note Ext. PW.17/R where it has been indicated: "It
is alleged that Sudha, 20 year old wife of Laxman Kumar, resident of 9-B Janata
Flats, Phase III, Ashok Vihar, was heating milk on stove when her clothes
caught fire..." The source of this information is not known.
In the circumstances no importance can at all
be attached to the her say record. The other document is the admission record
of Sudha at the St. Stephen's Hospital, Ext. PW.18/A.
There it has been indicated: "Sustained
burns while heating milk on a stove". The document has admittedly been
signed by Laxman Kumar, the husband of Sudha. One can assume that he was the
source of information. Mr. Singh placed the evidence of PW.3, sister of Sudha
where she said that she had talked to the doctor at the hospital and told her all
On the basis of this evidence, learned Senior
Counsel, pleaded to accept PW.3 as the source of the information giving the
cause of fire. He also argued with emphasis that it was for the prosecution to
examine the doctor who had made the endorsement and adverse inference should
have been drawn against the prosecution for with holding the witness from the
trial. Admittedly, the endorsement was made by one Mr. Vijaya Kumar who was
then working at the St. Stephen's Hospital. PW. 18 who works in the said
Hospital has stated that Mr. Kumar had left the services and his whereabouts
were not known. In these circumstances, no adverse inference is drawable. Nor
can we assume that the information regarding the cause of fire was on the basis
of what PW. 3 had stated. Since the husband of Sudha was present and was
signing the form, it is legitimate to assume that the doctor made queries from
him and filled up the form accordingly.
Again, as we have said, Sudha was alive, the
near relations were not prepared to expose the husband and his relations to
prosecution and even PW.3 may not have stated the real cause. No importance,
therefore, is also available to be attached to the narration in the document.
The third document is the report received from the mobile van around 9.44 P.M.
where it was said that a woman named Sudha, aged 21-22 years is said to have
sustained burns by the bursting to stove or she caught fire accidentally. The
stove has been found to be in good order at the time of the seizure and this fact
goes a long way to indicate that the allegation of stove bursting was baseless.
The source cf the information not being know, no importance is also available
to be attached to this document. Mr. Singh was maintained that the bursting of
the stove is an erroneous translation of the actual record. What exactly was
said is that there was a sudden flicker in the kerosene stove as a result of
which Sudha's saree 919 caught fire. Perhaps the criticism is correct but
nothing ultimately turns on it. At the hearing counsel for the appellants
relied upon the entry in PW. 12/B which was a copy of the record maintained at
the Ashok Vihar Police Station. The entry shows:
"At 9.12 P.M. Shri Nahar Singh has
informed from P.C.R. through telephone that some unknown person had informed
from a public call telephone to the effect that one lady had been set on fire
in a Janata Quarter,.............." No importance can be attached to this
entry either. We would, therefore, keep out these documents from consideration
while considering the case for finding out whether Sudha had an accidental
catch of fire or fire was set on her clothes.
It is appropriate at this stage that we
consider the background and the existing relationship between the parties with
a view to ascertaining if there was any motive for perpetrating the crime.
The evidence in regard to the relationship
between the parties so as to discover the presence of motive is both oral and
documentary. The High Court referred to four letters written by Sudha to Geeta,
sister of Laxman. Ext.
D-2 is a letter without date but the contents
suggest that it must have been written some time in the autumn of 1980.
The letter indicates that Sudha's
relationship with Geeta was quite close. They appear to be of the same age
group and it is quite possible that while the relationship with the other
members of the family was strained, Sudha's relationship with Geeta was
particularly cordial. Such a situation is not unusual. This letter, however,
contains a statement to the following effect :
"Any way, I would write to you in detail
as now I have no time to concentrate my mind for writing a detailed letter.
Ext. D.3 is a letter of September 12, 1980.
Here again Sudha has indicated her longing to be close to Geeta. Therein there
is a second sentence reading thus: "You keep yourself happy and need not
worry." Worrying, of course, would be with reference to Sudha. The High
Court has underlined the following sentence of the letter :
920 "Deedi (sister) please send mother
over here after 2 or 3 days as you know that I have not been able to get any
opportunity to have her company here." According to the High Court, Sudha
was longing for the company of the mother-in-law; otherwise there would be no
necessity for that sentence in the letter. As we propose to deal with this
aspect at a time, we shall indicate our comments after we have referred to the
other two letters.
The third letter marked Ext. XX is dated
October 17, 1980.
Therein again Sudha wanted the mother (of
Didi) to visit Delhi for 2 or 4 days. Towards the end there is an indication
that Laxman wanted the delivery to be effected at Delhi. The last letter in the
series is Ext. XXX which does not bear a date. There are two sentences in the
letter which we would like to extract in particular :
"I am of the view that blood is thicker
than water.. I would have posted a letter earlier but due to abdominal ailment
I could not do so...
The first of the sentences referred to above
obviously was meant for Didi as she had failed to come and the second sentence
referred to her ailment. There is nothing in these letters which is very
material for the purpose of ascertaining the relationship that existed between
Sudha on one side and members of her husband's family on the other.
Geeta being the daughter of Shakuntala, the
mother-in-law , Sudha as daughter-in-law was not expected to make complaints
against her particularly when the letters were being sent to Barot where the
mother-in-law was living. Similarly, a letter written by PW. 8 to Subhash and
Laxman which has been marked as Ext.D-1, dated September 25, 1980, and another
written by PW. 8 to Shakuhtala and her husband (Ext. PW.6/DA of the same date)
have also been relied upon by the High Court. These letters are letters which
PW.8 had written with reference to the marriage of Ashok (younger brother of
PW.8). It appears that this marriage was negotiated and/or made to materialise
with the assistance of the members of the family of the accused persons and the
marriage had been fixed to February 12, 1981. In the letter Ext. PW.6/DA
written to the parents of Laxman, PW.8 had spoken well about the family of the
accused persons. That obviously one would expect when a brother-in-law of
Laxman would be writing to the parents of the sister's husband. It is customary
to write to elders in that strain. The contents of these letters may not
reflect the true position and any undue 921 emphasis on the contents thereof
would really be misleading.
Similarly, there is a letter written by PW. 6
to Sudha also dated September 25, 1980. Therein there is mention: "You
need not worry about anything; everything will be okay... I will surely bring
your servant with me.... The High Court has relying on these letters, come to
the conclusion that the relationship was good till middle of October, 1980, and
according to it the appreciation of the position by the trial Judge that the
letters contained intentional flattery was not correct.
There is evidence that the deceased was being
made to do most of the household work notwithstanding the fact that she was
carrying and gradually the time for delivery of the child was nearing. PW. 6
had intervened to meet this situation by bringing a servant who could take
Sudha's load to some extent and ease the position. DW. 5, however, terminated
the services which meant that Sudha had to take the burden on her. There is
evidence that PW. 6 had even gone to the extent of offering the salary of the
That possibly was not appreciated and may
have been for good reasons.
Once we come to the conclusion that the
letters have really no material bearing on the point at issue, the oral
evidence of the four witnesses speaking on the topic has to be referred to. As
pointed out, these four witnesses are PWs. 3 and 6, the two sisters of Sudha, PW.
7 Sudha's mother, and PW. 8 who is Sudha's brother. PW. 3 has stated :
"Whenever I used to-visit her or she
used to visit me, Sudha always used to complain that she has not been treated
properly. She used to complain about the harassment by her husband's elder
brother Subhash, accused, and his wife and some times by her mother-in-law,
both accused present in court, as they used to make demand from Sudha for
bringing more money from her brothers and they also used to take more work from
On 1.12.80, I had visited her in the house of
the accused at about 7 P.M. and had remained with her for about an hour. At
that time the doctor had advised and opined that she was likely to deliver
within two or three days. When I was at the house of the accused, Sudha's
mother-in-law, the accused present in the Court, made several charges to accuse
and malign Sudha.
922 When I was coming out of the house my
sister Sudha came out with me. She told me that on the previous day her
brother-in-law, i.e. Mr. Vinod younger brother of Laxman had tried to forcibly
remove her gold bangles when she had refused to hand them over to her in-laws.
She had also told me that Vinod had given a twist to her right wrist. I had
noted bluish mark on her wrist. When I wanted to take her to my house, accused
Laxman and his mother Smt. Shakuntala refused to send her with me saying that
Laxman would be dropping her to my house next morning.
In cross-examination it has been further
"I never saw wife of Subhash pleased
with Sudha who always used to complain even against her whenever I used to meet
her She further said :
"I had received two or three letters
from my brother from Calcutta requesting me to look after Sudha as she was not
happy in her in-laws' family.
I did not preserve those letters.
PW. 6 is the other sister of Sudha. She has
"She told me that she was not in a
position to do that much of work due to her not having already worked before
her marriage and also because of her being in the family way. Thereafter she
returned to her in-laws. After 10 days I went to the house of Sudha in Ashok
Vihar and requested Smt.
Shakuntala, accused present in Court, and
wife of accused Subhash to engage a maid servant for washing utensils and I
offered to pay for the same. Sudha arranged for a maid servant who was,
however, not paid the wages by the accused persons and was terminated. Many a
time, Sudha had complained to me that Mrs. Subhash used to prepare meals for
the rest of the family and she had to cook the food for herself later on. When
Sudha was carrying a child for about 5 to 6 months, she told me that her
in-laws had told her that if she gave birth to a male h child then they would
take a scooter and Fridge for Laxman and Rs. 10,000 in cash from her brothers.
I told 923 her that I would gift a fridge from my side and the rest would be
given by our brothers. On many occasions she had told me that her in-laws were
making demand of a sewing machine although she did not know any stitching work
and she had written a letter to her brother about which I came to know
later." PW. 7 is an elderly lady aged sixty. Obviously her husband was
dead. She has stated that about two months after the marriage when Sudha was
brought to Calcutta by PW. 8, she had stated that Laxman and the mother-in-law
and Subhash have been demanding Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000 in cash. PW. 8 is
Sudha's brother. He lives at Calcutta and is by profession a Commission Agent.
His evidence too was to the effect that Sudha had complained about the demand
of cash on the occasion of the birth of the first child. Added to the evidence
of these witnesses is the evidence of PW. 4.
Ishwari Devi, as already pointed out, was a
good friend of Sudha, being a close neighbour and Sudha having very much liked
Bobby, the young child of Ishwari Devi. Ishwari Devi had been living in the
upper flat until two months before the occurrence and even when she had
shifted, Sudha and she were meeting almost every day. She has stated
"Sudha almost daily used to visit me and used to complain to me that she
was being maltreated on the ground of insufficiency of dowry and that her
husband and mother-in-law used to threaten her for setting her on fire.
There is no particular notification as to why
PW. 4 would depose against the accused persons. Similarly, if there was really
no basis for the accusation, the two sisters of Sudha, her mother who was an
elderly lady and a widow, and her brother, PW. 8, would have not falsely
implicated Shakuntala, Subhash and Laxman as the perpetrators of the crime. If
Sudha had succumbed to burn injuries caused by accidental fire, it would have
been an event for mutual sorrow for every one in the family both of the accused
as also of Sudha. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the marriage of Ashok
had already been settled and was an event to come on February 2, 1981. Only a
couple of months after the incident. if there was no foundation in the
allegation of maltreatment and harassment of Sudha, the four relations of Sudha
would have really not strained the relationship by making false allegations. If
it was indeed an accident one would expect Ashok's marriage to be performed as
fixed so that the tie may be maintained. In that event false accusations
against the accused 924 persons would he wholly out of place. The High Court
has obviously not kept these aspects in view while dealing with the evidence.
We are, therefore, of the opinion that the material on record is indicative of
the position that the relationship of Sudha with the members of the family in
the husband's side was not cordial.
We may note here that even the High Court has
not brushed aside the story of demand in the event of a child being born. It
has observed :
"It may be that in September or October
the mother-in-law or some other members in the family may have told the
deceased that in case she gave birth to a male child they would expect a fridge
and a scooter and some cash. It is customary for the Hindus that on the first
delivery of a child, particularly on the birth of a male child, the parents give
presents. The in-laws or husband may have felt the need of a scooter and a
frigidaire and therefore, wanted the deceased to demand a frigidaire and a
scooter. We find it impossible to agree with the learned Additional Sessions
Judge that the accused finding no positive response from the brothers and the
sisters of the deceased regarding their above demand had decided to kill the
deceased. The observation of the Additional Sessions Judge that the accused
decided to take the life of the deceased before the delivery of the child
because after the child was born it would have become difficult for them to
execute the plan is wholly with out any basis.
Perhaps the way the learned Additional
Sessions Judge formed his conclusions on the basis of the evidence was not to
be approved but in our opinion the High Court had really no justification to
condemn the learned Additional Sessions Judge on that score. We do not approve
of the conclusion of the High Court that insufficiency of dowry was made an
issue only to create a motive for the crime. As a fact, the relationship had
been strained. Shakuntala and Madhu had failed to show normal human
considerations towards Sudha, a young girl who was for the first time going to
be a mother.
Both Shakuntala and Madhu had their own
experience of being in the family way in their own time. They, however, forgot
the same and their behaviour towards Sudha during this period did amount to a
sort of torture. Added to the physical strain, the 925 demands advanced from
time to time and the particular emphasis with which the same were reiterated as
the period of delivery approached gradually strained the feeling between Sudha
and the members of the husband's family.
We have also come to the conclusion that the
High Court failed to take into account one material aspect while appreciating
the evidence of the prosecution witnesses. It is a fact that Sudha had been
burnt and according to the medical opinion that was to the extent of 70%. As
the evidence shows, Sudha was in her senses and was capable of talking at the
time when she was being removed to the Hospital or even after she had been
admitted as an indoor patient. The two sisters or their respective husbands had
no apprehension that Sudha would not live. In case Sudha came round, she was to
have lived in the family of her husband.
No one interested in the welfare of Sudha
was, therefore, prepared to make a statement which might prejudice the accused
persons and lead to the straining of relationship in an irreparable way.
Therefore, the silence or avoidance to make a true disclosure about the cause
of fire particularly so long as Sudha was alive, cannot be over emphasised and
adverse inference drawn by the High Court from the conduct of the sisters was
indeed not warranted in the facts of the case.
We came across sumptuous reference to
statements of witnesses recorded under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal
Procedure during Investigation in the judgment of the High Court. It is
interesting to notice that the High Court found fault, and very rightly, with
the trial Court for using such statements as evidence; yet, it fell into the
same error and freely referred to such statements for coming to findings on
material aspects. It is unnecessary to indicate reference to specific instances
at length but one or two illustrative occasions we would like to point out
"The husband of PWs. 3 and 6 in their statements to the police on 2nd
December, 1980, have stated that the relations between Sudha and her husband
were cordial." The husbands have not been examined as witnesses at the
trial. Similarly the High Court extracted in extenso the inquest statements as
if they were evidence proper. Section 162(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure
"No statement made by any person to a
police officer 926 in the course of investigation under this chapter, shall, if
reduced to writing, be signed by the person making it, nor shall any such
statement or any record thereof, whether in a police diary or otherwise, or any
part of such statement or record, be used for any purpose, save as hereinafter
provided, at any inquiry or trial in respect of any offence under investigation
at the time when such statement was made :
Provided that when any witness is called for
the prosecution in such inquiry or trial whose statement has been reduced into
writing as aforesaid, any part of his statement, if duly proved, may be used by
the accused, and with the permission of the Court, by the prosecution, to
contradict such witness in the manner provided by section 145 of the Indian
Evidence Act, 1872..." This Court pointed out in Pedda Narayana & Ors.
v. State of Andhra Pradesh,  4 S.C.C. 153, that a statement recorded by
the police officer during investigation is inadmissible in evidence and the
proper procedure is to confront the witness with the contradictions when they
are examined and then ask the Investigating Officer regarding the
contradictions. This Court reiterated the position in Sat Paul v. Delhi
Administration,  1 S.C.R. 727, by again pointing our that the statement
made to a police officer during the investigation can be used only for the
purpose of contradicting the prosecution witnesses under s. 145 of the Evidence
Act. It cannot be used for the purpose of cross-examination. The mandate of the
law of procedure and the law laid down by this Court have obviously been
overlook ed by the trial Court as also the High Court although the High Court
was cognizant of the legal position and had found fault with the trial Court.
We would like to point out that the trial Court has marked large portions of
the statements recorded by the police without confiding to the actual
contradiction. If attention had been bestowed at the appropriate stage, this
situation would not have arisen.
We shall now refer to the evidence regarding
Sudha's burning. It has already been indicated that the evidence consists of
statements of PWs. 1, 2, 4 and 5. These are neighbours. The High Court has
found three of these witnesses to have been present and we have already
indicated that PW. 4 was also attracted to the spot by the cries raised by
Sudha. Mr. Singh, it may be noted, 927 challenged this finding of the High
Court but we see no force in the challenge. These witnesses, according to the
High Court, came and helped in putting out the fire and expeditiously removing
Sudha to the hospital. We have already indicated our reasons for accepting the
evidence of these witnesses as being trustworthy. The learned trial Judge who
had occasion to see the demeanour of the witnesses, believed them to be
truthful and the reasoning advanced by the High Court to discard the evidence
has been rejected by us. On the evidence of these witnesses it follows that at
the time then PW. 1 came, Subhash was standing at the door connecting the room
with the outer covered space where Sudha had been aflame. Undue importance was
given by the High Court to the fact that there was no smell of kerosene on the
head or hair of Sudha. Sudha had been found in a standing posture by these
witnesses when her wearing apparel was burning. There is some evidence that the
clothes emanated the smell of kerosene. At no stage Sudha had even suggested
that kerosene had been poured or sprinkled on her head. The observation of the
High Court that if kerosene had been poured on her body or over the wearing
apparel the burns would have been of a greater dimension is not a conclusion
based upon expert evidence.
The medical examination conducted does not
appear to have been made keeping this aspect in view. Admittedly, every part of
the body had not been equally burnt. Therefore, it is quite possible that
presence of kerosene on the wearing apparel had damaged certain parts of the
body more than the other parts. Non-presence of kerosene on the head is not a
material feature and presence of smell in the clothes probabilises the
prosecution case that on Sudha's clothes kerosene had been sprinkled. The
suggestion that the gunny bag and the clothes had come in contact with kerosene
leaking from the stove is indeed not acceptable in the absence of evidence that
Sudha had squatted on the floor while using the kerosene stove. We have already
found that Sudha had not lighted the kerosene stove that evening.
Evidence that the stove was leaking when
lighted is of no assistance to explain the presence of kerosene in the gunny
bag as well inasmuch as we have rejected the plea of lighting of the stove. Mr.
Singh has placed some passages from Taylor's Medical Jurisprudence in support of
his submission that in view of the medical evidence that Sudha's burns were
either of the first or the second degrees, use of kerosene which would have
aggravated the burns was untrue.
We are not much impressed by this argument.
How much of kerosene was sprinkled is not known. For how long Sudha actually
burnt is also not exactly known. To work backwards from the injured condition
of Sudha's body may not in the premises lead to a correct conclusion.
928 One more feature which must be duly taken
note of at this point is the place where Sudha was found aflame.
Admittedly it was not the room where she
lived but it was the covered space on the back side. Once we have rejected the
defence plea of accidental fire while heating milk with the kerosene stove, Sudha's
presence in the outer space at that time is not natural. Sudha was apparently
brought to that place from the room to be put on fire so that the articles in
the rooms would not be damaged and there would be the minimum of loss to
The evidence of the witnesses clearly
indicates that the accused persons appeared to be indifferent even when Sudha
had been aflame. If the mother in-law was really interested in a child being
born to Sudha an event likely to happen within a few days thereafter she would
have been the most disturbed person at the sight of fire on the body of Sudha.
Similarly, Laxman must have been terribly upset and would not have been leaving
any stone unturned to bring safety to Sudha. The evidence of the prosecution
witnesses is indicative of the position that there was no sense of grief or
anxiety in their conduct and, therefore, the neighbours who gathered had to
take the lead in the matter for providing relief to her.
There is some amount of discrepancy in the
evidence of the witnesses in regard to the details and Mr. Singh highlighted
this aspect in his submission. It is common human experience that different
persons admittedly seeing an event give varying accounts of the same. That is
because the perceptiveness varies and a recount of the same incident is usually
at variance to a considerable extent. Ordinarily, if several persons give the
same account of an event, even with reference to minor details, the evidence is
branded as parrotlike and is considered to be the outcome of tutoring.
Having read the evidence of these witnesses
with great care, we are of the view that the same has the touch of intrinsic
truth and the variations are within reasonable limits and the variations
instead of providing the ground for rejection, add to the quality of being near
to truth. On the evidence, therefore, we come to these conclusions : (1) the
relationship of Sudha with the members of the husband's family had become
strained and she had been subjected to physical as well as mental torture for
some time before the incident; the physical torture was the outcome of
indifference to her health and the mental torture was on account of demand of
dowry; (2) Sudha had not lighted the kerosene stove that evening and her
wearing apparel had not caught fire accidently but kerosene had 929 been
sprinkled on her clothes and she had been brought into the open space where
fire was lit to her clothes. Thus Sudha died not as an outcome of an accidental
fire but on account of a designed move on the part of the members of the family
of the accused persons to put an end to her life. Mr. Singh has pleaded
forcefully that we should not interfere with the judgment of acquittal as it is
based on a reasonable view of the matter merely by re-appreciating the
evidence. The scope of an appeal against acquittal and the scope of this
Court's jurisdiction in such a matter are well settled. The preponderance of
judicial opinion in this Court is that there is no difference between an appeal
against conviction and an appeal against acquittal except when dealing with an
appeal against acquittal the Court keeps in view the position that the
presumption of innocence in favour of the accused has been fortified by
acquittal and if the view adopted by the High Court is a reasonable one and the
conclusion reached by it had its grounds well set on the materials on record,
the acquittal may not be interfered with. Upon reading the record and after
hearing learned counsel we are of the view that the judgment of the High Court
cannot have the immunity which Mr. Singh claimed. Once evidence has been read
and this Court has proceeded to review the entire material, there is indeed no
limitation in law in the exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 136 of the
Constitution for the matter of making a just decision.
Now comes the time to find out as to who are
the persons responsible for the killing of Sudha. We have already indicated
that DW. 5 had been taken to Barot by Subhash and on his return he brought
Shakuntala to Delhi.
Subhash appears to have been living in a
Though they were living under the same roof,
there does not appear to have been much of cordiality and close relationship
between Subhash and Laxman; each one appeared to be living in his own world
within the small premises. It is significant that Subhash had made a statement
as reiterated by the prosecution witnesses that he had nothing to do with what
happened to Sudha and on that ground had declined to enter into the taxi when
Sudha was being removed to the Hospital. Even such a statement had been
repeated earlier. It is true that the prosecution witnesses have suggested that
Subhash was closing the door when they wanted to enter the back space. Subhash
has explained that he was trying to avoid the spread of fire. Keeping these
aspects in view, we are inclined to treat his case somewhat differently from
that of the husband and the mother-in-law of Sudha.
930 Mr. Garg appearing for the appellants in
Criminal Appeal No. 94/84, had emphatically relied upon the observations of the
Judicial Committee in the case of Barendra Kumar Ghosh v. The King Emperor, 52
I.A. 40, and contended that in view of the fact that Subhash stood and waited
exhibiting a conduct of indifference when positive action for help to Sudha was
warranted, he must be imputed with sufficient motive and be ranked at par with
the accused persons. We are, however, prepared to give him the benefit of doubt
treating his case to be on the border line. His acquittal by the High Court,
therefore, shall not be interfered with. As far as the mother-in-law is
concerned, the position is very different. Sudha in her dying declarations made
contemporaneously as deposed to by the witnesses had stated that kerosene had
been poured by the mother-in-law and fire had also been lit by her. This has
been repeated by her more than once before she reached the hospital except that
she assigned that lighting of fire to her husband. We have already dealt with
this aspect of the matter and have come to the conclusion that though we would
not have been prepared to base the conviction on the oral dying declarations
alone, such dying declarations, in our opinion, were not to be totally rejected
and the same can be used as corroborative material.
We are not prepared to accept Laxman's plea
He had pleaded that he had gone along with
PW. 3 upto the bus stand and by the time he returned the incident had taken
place. Laxman was present and his conduct of indifference does exhibit his
complicity. In fact, when Laxman was available in Delhi, without his active
association Shakuntala could not have managed the event all by herself.
We are, therefore, of the definite view that
Shakuntala and Laxman are responsible for the killing of Sudha by setting her
on fire. They have, therefore, committed the offence of murder and are liable
to be convicted for the offence punishable under section 302 of the Indian
Penal Code as has been found by the trial Court. Mr. Singh had very ably
attempted to persuade as to accept the position that when admittedly PW. 3 had
come to the house that evening, it would be normal to expect Laxman to go with
her upto the bus stand when she was returning to her residence. He also
commended to us to accept the evidence of the taxi driver DW. 4 who stated that
Laxman appeared in the scene after the taxi had come to the spot. We have
pondered over this submission for quite some time but we find the evidence of
the prosecution witnesses who saw Laxman standing at the front door more
931 The next relevant aspect for
consideration is what should be the proper punishment to be imposed. The
learned trial Judge had thought it proper to impose the punishment of death.
Acquittal intervened and almost two years have elapsed since the respondents
were acquitted and set at liberty by the High Court. In a suitable case of
bride burning, death sentence may not be improper. But in the facts of the case
and particularly on account of the situation following the acquittal in the
hands of the High Court and the time lag, we do not think it would be proper to
restore the death sentence as a necessary corollary to the finding of guilt. We
accordingly allow both the appeals partly and direct that the two respondents,
Smt. Shakuntala and Laxman Kumar shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life.
Both the appeals against Subhash stand dismissed and his acquittal is upheld.
Steps shall be taken by the trial Judge to give effect to this judgment as
promptly as feasible.
Before we part with these appeals we may
refer to some portions of the judgment of the High Court under the heading
'Conclusion'. The High Court observed :
"The sentence of death awarded to three
persons including a woman in a wife burning case was given wide publicity both
by the national and international news media. The verdict of acquittal which we
are about to deliver is bound to cause flutter in the public mind more
particularly amongst women's social bodies and organisations.
We are performing our constitutional duty.
Judges have no special means of finding out the truth. We entirely depend on
the evidence produced on record and do our best to discover the truth within
the limitations laid down by law. Judges are human beings and can err. The
satisfying factor is that we are not the final Court and there is a Court above
us and if our judgment is wrong it shall be set right." What the High
Court had visualised has perhaps partly come to happen but the way the High
Court took cover of the existence of a higher forum is not available to us as
law does not prescribe another forum beyond this Court. We are, however,
disturbed by the fact that the High Court took notice of publicity through the
news media and indicated its apprehension of flutter in the public mind. It is
the obligation of every Court to find out the truth and act according to law
once the truth is discovered. In 932 that search for truth obviously the Court
has to function within the bounds set by law and act on the evidence placed
before it. What happens outside the Court room when the Court is busy in its
process of adjudication is indeed irrelevant and unless a proper cushion is
provided to keep the proceedings within the court room dissociated from the
heat generated outside the court room either through the news media or through
flutter in the public mind, the cause of justice is bound to suffer. Mankind
has shifted from the state of nature towards a civilized society and it is no
longer the physical power of a litigating individual or the might of the ruler
nor even the opinion of the majority that takes away the liberty of a citizen
by convicting him and making him suffer a sentence of imprisonment. Award of
punishment following conviction at a trial in a system wedded to rule of law is
the outcome of cool deliberation in the court room after adequate hearing is
afforded to the parties, accusations are brought against the accused, the
prosecutor is given an opportunity of supporting the charge and the accused is
equally given an opportunity of meeting the accusations by establishing his
innocence. It is the outcome of cool deliberations and the screening of the
material by the informed mind of the Judge that leads to determination of the
lis. If the cushion is lost and the Court room is allowed to vibrate with the
heat generated outside it, the adjudicatory process suffers and the search for
truth is stifled.
In the penultimate and the last paragraphs
the judgment of the High Court it has been said as follows :
"We appreciate the anxiety displayed by
some of the women organisations in cases of wife burning a crime to be
condemned by one and all and if proved deserving the severest sentence. The
evil of dowry is equally a matter of concern for the society as a e and should
be looked upon contemptuously both on giver and the taker. This evil is in vogue
in our society since time immemorial and shall take time to be curbed. The
social and economic conditions are the main enemy of woman desperation sometime
compelling her to commit suicide. These evils prevailing in our society have to
be fought at different levels. Once economic independence comes in women the
evil of dowry will die a natural death. Without education economic independence
cannot be achieved and, therefore, education at all levels of the society upper
class, middle classes, lower classes is a must.
We hear of no wife burning cases in western
countries, obviously because women there are economically independent.
933 The Courts cannot allow an emotional and
sentimental feelings to come into the judicial pronouncements. Once sentimental
and emotional feelings are allowed to enter the judicial mind the Judge is
bound to view the evidence with a bias and in that case the conclusion may also
be biased resulting in some cases in great injustice.
The cases have to be decided strictly on
evidence howsoever cruel or horrifying the crime may be.
All possible chances of innocent man being
convicted have to be ruled out. There should be no hostile atmosphere against
an accused in court. A hostile atmosphere is bound to interfere in an unbiased
approach as well as a decision. This has to be avoided at all costs. We are
sorry for the above diversion but it has become necessary in this case.
With the opinion in the ultimate paragraph of
the judgment we agree. But we have not been able to see any reason as to why
the High Court was obsessed with the idea that the diversion became necessary
in the case. It cannot be gain said that the Court must proceed to discharge
its duties uninfluenced by any extraneous consideration.
Debate has no place in a judgment though
invariably a debate precedes it and a judgment may occasion a debate.
Every one in the country whether an
individual or an organisation should contribute to social metabolism. It is our
considered opinion that this Court has obligation within reasonable limits and
justifying bounds to provide food for thoughts which may help generate the
proper social order and hold the community in an even form. The High Court was
of the view that the evil of dowry in our society has been prevailing from time
immemorial. This does not seem to be correct. In the olden days in the Hindu
community dowry in the modern sense was totally unknown. Man and woman enjoyed
equality of status and society looked upon women as living goddesses. Where
ladies lived in peace, harmony and with dignity and status, Gods were believed
to be roaming about in human form. When a bride was brought into the family it
was considered to be a great event and it was looked upon as bringing fortune
into the family not by way of dowry but on account of the grace the young lady
carried with and around her.
The High Court has indicated that once
education and economic independence for women are achieved, the evil of dowry
would meet a natural death. There seems to be force in what the 934 High Court
has said. We propose to add a few concluding paragraphs to our judgement to
highlight our concern about the evil.
Marriage, according to the community to which
parties belong, is sacramental and is believed to have been ordained in heaven.
The religious rites performed at the marriage alter clearly indicate that the
man accepts the woman as his better-half by assuring her protection as
guardian, ensuring food and necessaries of life as the provider, guaranteeing
companionship as the mate and by resolving that the pleasures and sorrows in
the pursuit of life shall be shared with her and Dharma shall be observed. If
this be the concept of marriage, there would be no scope to look for worldly
considerations, particularly dowry.
Every marriage ordinarily involves a
transplant. A girl born and brought up in her natural family when given in
marriage, has to leave the natural setting and come into a new family. When a
tender plant is shifted from the place of origin to a new setting, great care
is taken to ensure that the new soil is suitable and not far different from the
soil where the plant had hitherto been growing; care is taken to ensure that
there is not much of variation of the temperature, watering facility is assured
and congeniality is attempted to be provided. When a girl is transplanted from
her natural setting into an alien family, the care expected is bound to be more
than in the case of a plant.
Plant has life but the girl has a more than
Human emotions are unknown to the plant life.
In the growing years in the natural setting the girl - now a bride - has formed
her own habits, gathered her own impressions, developed her own aptitudes and
got used to a way of life.
In the new setting some of these have to be
accepted and some she has to surrender. This process of adaptation is not and
cannot be one-sided. Give and take, live and let live, are the ways of life and
when the bride is received in the new family she must have a feeling of welcome
and by the fond bonds of love and affection, grace and generosity, attachment
and consideration that she may receive in the family of the husband, she will
get into a new mould; the mould which would last for her life. She has to get
used to a new set of relationships - one type with the husband, another with
the parents-in-law, a different one with the other superiors and yet a
different one with the younger ones in the family. For this she would require
loving guidance. The elders in the family, including the mother-in- law, are
expected to show her the way. The husband has to stand as a mountain of support
ready to 935 protect her and espouse her cause where she is on the right and
equally ready to cover her either by pulling her up to protecting her willingly
taking the responsibility on to himself when she is at fault. The process has
to be a natural one and there has to be exhibition of cooperation and
willingness from every side. Otherwise how would the transplant succeed.
There is yet another aspect which we think is
very germane, Of late there is a keen competition between man and woman all the
world over. There has been a feeling that the world has been a man dominated
one and women as a class have been trying to raise their heads by claiming
equality. We are of the view that woman must rise and on account of certain
virtues which Nature has endowed them with to the exclusion of man, due credit
must be given to women as possessors of those exclusive qualities. It is the
woman who is capable of playing the more effective role in the preservation of
society and, therefore, she has to be respected. She has the greater dose of
divinity in her and by her gifted qualities she can protect the society against
evil. To that extent woman have special qualities to serve society in due
discharge of the social responsibility. While all these are true and the
struggle for upliftment has to continue, can it be forgotten that men and women
in the human creation are complementary to each other and it is only when a man
and a woman are put together that a unit is formed? One without the other has
no place in the community of homosapiens. Therefore, in a world where man and
woman are indispensable to each other and the status of one depends upon the
existence and longing of the other, to what extent is competition between the
two justifiable is a matter to be debated in a cool and healthy setting.
S.R. Appeal partly allowed.